Jewish Journal

Pastor told flagpole prayers at schools are unconstitutional; vows to keep praying

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 4, 2011 | 10:07 pm

Baptist pastor Ron Baker has been leading flagpole prayers at four schools in Florida’s Clay County for 12 years. He has no intention of giving that up, despite a warning from the school district’s attorney that the prayers are unconstitutional.

Here’s the story from the Associated Baptist Press:

They went largely unnoticed until the principal at Clay Hill Elementary School recently sent a Sept. 30 memo to his 40-member staff saying the First Amendment applies only to Christians.

That prompted a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation viewing the flagpole rallies as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.

Clay County School Board attorney J. Bruce Bickner issued a legal opinion saying, “A review of the law and pertinent cases clearly indicate these enumerated activities all work together to make this a clear violation of the establishment clause and a clear case of endorsement of religion generally and Christianity particularly.”

Baker originally agreed to stop hosting the prayers. But now he’s going to fight the district’s wishes.

I’m not really sure what the right legal answer is here. I remember when I was in high school, morning prayers were a pretty regular thing at schools in San Diego County. But I think those were led by students; still, I’m not sure how an outside participant would change the constitutional calculus.

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